TiVo is introducing music to its mix of entertainment services, offering owners of the company's digital video recorders access through their TVs to the Rhapsody music service.
The new feature announced Tuesday means TiVo subscribers with broadband-connected set-top boxes will be able to listen to music streamed over the Internet from Rhapsody's service. The service, now part of Rhapsody America, a new joint venture between RealNetworks and Viacom's MTV Networks, has a catalog of more than 4 million songs.
Tivo and Rhapsody view their partnership as a way to cross-market to boost their subscriber bases.
The deal also marks the latest in a string of features TiVo has added to promote itself as a premium service. TiVo has teamed with Amazon.com for movie downloads and with Yahoo for photo-sharing. It also offers direct access to some online content and lets users share home movies with other TiVo users.
Whether users access it through TiVo, a PC or portable gadgets, the Rhapsody service will cost $12.99 per month on top of the $12.95 or more TiVo regularly charges.
Rhapsody is considered one of the leading providers -- along with Napster -- of subscription music, where users can listen to as much as they want as long as they continue to pay the monthly fee. It's not as popular as a la carte download services such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store. Rhapsody also offers songs for 99 cents per download, but not through TiVo.
TiVo says it will roll out the Rhapsody feature in stages with priority for current customers who sign up. They can try Rhapsody for 30 days free.
In its fiscal second quarter, TiVo saw its number of subscribers drop to 4.2 million, from 4.4 million a year ago.
RealNetworks, a Seattle-based digital media company which ran Rhapsody before merging it into Rhapsody America in August, does not disclose specific subscriber totals for the service. RealNetworks had about 2.7 million subscribers, up from 1.7 million, including all its music-related services, in its fiscal second quarter.
Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo, a pioneer of DVRs that let users pause live television, zip past commercials and record programs without tapes or CDs, is competing against often cheaper offerings from cable and satellite TV operators.
It isn't alone in trying to provide one-stop shopping for digital entertainment.
Larger rivals, such as Apple or Microsoft are on a similar track, for instance, with Windows media centers, the Xbox 360 game console or the Apple TV set-top box.
"This puts us on the map as distinguishing ourselves from other generic DVRs," TiVo's CEO Tom Rogers said. "We not only facilitate getting Rhapsody on the TV set, but most importantly, the quick easy way to find it, which is how TiVo made its name."